Monday, September 24, 2007

Interlude: The Scene That Celebrates Itself

I guess I waited over two years for Friday night. Metric has made it a bit of a custom to play the Ottawa Bluesfest over the last couple years, and I've made it a tradition to miss them. When the band finally announced they were playing Webster Hall, I was overjoyed...until I realized that Mahogany was also playing that night. But things worked out pretty nicely in the end, and it turned into a pretty epic night of concert-going.

The night began with Toronto's Crystal Castles, whose striking three-strobe light show complemented an abrasively danceable set. Singer Alice was a madwoman onstage, leaping from side to side while the crowd dotted her with flashes like overzealous paparazzi. I've rarely seen Webster Hall so active, certainly never for an opener, but the urgent synth lines and percussion made movement inevitable. Unfortunately, Alice's singing was more akin to yelling, and while that element distinguishes the group from the next knob twiddler, it's a definitely turn off for me. Still, props to the band for keeping things moving, and while verbal crowd interaction would've been nice, they're come off as more distinctive for that detachment.

MP3: Crystal Castles - Air War
MP3: Crystal Castles - 3 XxzxcZ Me
MySpace: Crystal Castles


Metric started a bit strangely with two new songs that left me scratching my head. They sounded promising, but it's an odd move to greet such a giant crowd with unfamiliar material. Thankfully, the bilingual "Poster of a Girl" sated the audience, and the first pumper "Dead Disco" sealed it, the floor shaking under the en masse jumping. But the band kept interspersing new material, and while it's probably about time for a new album, I was disappointed with every unfamiliar guitar chord or first verse they played. It's selfish, but I've listened to Metric to death - they're in my top ten - and not even hearing what I'd consider to be staples - "Succexy," "Live It Out," "The List," "Too Little Too Late" - was really a let down.

Still, what was there was pretty awesome. "Empty" really showcased Emily's voice amidst a nocturnal backdrop reminiscent of her Soft Skeleton guise, but the guitar pyrotechnics that followed have never kicked so hard on record, and it was a blast to see her shake her head with the chorus. "Hustle Rose" used the same soft-hard alternating to great effect, with an absolutely monster synth line on the chorus, and "Combat Baby" is still one of their strongest, the perfect pop song. Things settled down as the main set came to an end, as "Rock Me Now" featured Jimmy Shaw's falsetto, and Emily would eventually convince the crowd to participate, no mean feat. It wouldn't have been my selection from Grow Up And Blow Away, as some of those other tracks are just sublime, but I appreciate the fact that they did play an older cut. The band left as the vocalization looped, but returned shortly after for an encore, which featured an anthemic rendition of "Monster Hospital," followed by another new track, and the set came to what I really considered a premature end.

Ultimately, not quite all that I had hoped for, and a bit of a bummer after waiting so long. Still, it's nice to have finally seen Metric, and there were definitely moments in the set. I'll be there the next time they swing by, hopefully with a bit more familiarity with the setlist; this new album should be strong.

Here's Metric at the Bottom of Hill, San Francisco, recorded on October 30th, 2003, with a lot of tracks that I wish I had heard Friday night but didn't (boo hoo). Enjoy!

1. Intro
2. IOU
3. Succexy
4. Combat Baby
5. Wet Blanket
6. The List
7. Live It Out
8. Hustle Rose
9. On A Slow Night

MySpace: Metric
Official Site: Metric

There was no way I was going to end my night on such an ambigious note, especially not at 10:15. The scheduling quirk that put Metric and Mahogany on the same night actually worked somewhat in my advantage, as the Bowery Ballroom - where the former was playing - started off later. I got downtown as quickly as I could, but unfortunately missed first opener Soundpool entirely, which is a shame as I've been digging their album On High quite a bit. I managed to catch the last song of Elika's set, but lovely as it was, I can't really say much more. Anyhow, both bands will definitely be addressed as a later time, as they're too darn good for me not to return to them, but there was plenty of music yet to come.


Mahogany's set was bittersweet. I learned on the day of the show that five of the band's seven members had left over the summer, leaving Ana Breton and Andrew Prinz. Stopping by their studio in March remains the best interview experience I've ever had, hands down, and in the short time that I spent with them, they really struck me as incredibly passionate and creative people. When an entirely new rhythm section - with half the bass - and a new lead guitarist stepped onto the stage shortly after 11 pm, I felt a bit of trepidation, but after the first soaring notes of "Tesselation (Formerly Plateau One)," everything was okay. I realized that, despite the lineup change, the songs remain fully intact dream pop gems, and as long as some form of Mahogany exists to play them, well, nothing's really changed.

What has happened is Ana's emergence as the primary female vocalist, and she filled the role beautifully. At one point, an audience member to my right leaned over and yelled something to the effect of, "We're privileged to be hearing them!" I have to agree; the set approached the lofty heights of Slowdive in its heyday (yes, really), and perhaps Metric's quick ending was the best thing that could have happened that night. The set ended far too early with a new song, which I believed is entitled "Silk City," and it was absolutely sublime. I can't wait to hear the next album. The only criticism I have is pretty straightforward: please play longer sets!

MP3: Mahogany - My Bed is My Castle
MP3: Mahogany - Supervitesse
MP3: Mahogany - Springtime, Save Our Country
MySpace: Mahogany

Ulrich Schnauss

I was getting legitimately fatigued, and the extended break in between sets didn't help matters, but the wait was so worth it. One could say that Ulrich delivered the most highbrow DJ set ever, but that's an understatement. Ulrich doesn't play so much as compose, combining epic laptop-assisted orchestras with piano playing. There's a disarming simplicity to the beats, but once a song builds to its crescendo, it's downright unstoppable. It's really something that has to be experienced live; as lovely as the studio material is, it doesn't compare. Simply put, I danced (or whatever the equivalent of excessive head bobbing is) more during this hour than I have for a long, long while. Heck, even the normally stoic photographer in front of me was getting into it.

In between the epic soundscapes, things got nice and intimate as a guest guitarist strummed acoustically and sang on "Shine." It was a neat changeup, but didn't quite compare to the main set's finale, which left said guitarist on the stage floor, frantically shredding his strings with whatever was there, including the microphone pole. The act was pretty reflective of the set as a whole, as I was pretty astounded by the intensity present, which is pretty hilarious considering I was worried if things would be loud enough. Sometimes, it's good to be surprised.


showtrotta said...

Great review and photos of all the shows. Your Ulrich Schnauss review was dead on! I had to skip seeing him, but I'm glad to read someone enjoyed his beautiful music that night!

safer cooler greener said...

Hi Roland, liked your mahogany article in the nyu news. we featured them in our greener mag, FRMAG - -. Andrew is a friend of my business partners who introduced me to their music a while back. Fan ever since. Also listening to Asobi Seksu. Good stuff!

Brendan said...

Hey, I'm kind of a random passerby, but a big fan of Metric. I was wondering if you could repost the link to Hustle Rose.

I just saw them last weekend, and I'd really like a live mp3 of that song.

Thanks :D

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